Depression and Abortion
Rochester Area Right To Life
[This article is from the National Right to Life Committee.]
While "surfing" even selected web sites can prove maddeningly unproductive, it is no less true that pro-lifers frequently benefit from the enormous amount of information found on the Internet. That surely is the case for yours truly.
By no means even a tad sympathetic to our viewpoint, the New Scientist often runs articles that are useful if for no other reason than providing a look under the hood; it truly is helpful to understand how its authors think.
However, as was the case yesterday, its web site can also offer studies that, for the New Scientist at least, run against the grain.
"Seasonal trend in abortions linked to depression" read the headline. The first few sentences do a nice job of summarizing a study that appears in the current issue of the journal Human Reproduction. Claire Ainsworth writes
"A woman's decision to have an abortion may be influenced by seasonal depression, say researchers in Italy. They found an annual peak in voluntary abortions in summer -- coinciding with an annual peak in female suicides.
"This suggests that the same factors that push women to commit suicide might also make them more vulnerable to pressure to abort a pregnancy, they say.
" The almost complete similarity of the seasonal rhythm of female suicides and that of voluntary abortion furnishes valid support for a strong relationship between the two, say Angelo Cagnacci and Annibale Volpe at the University of Modena. "
Even the head of the British equivalent of Planned Parenthood admitted, "This is an interesting paper," before adding the explanation may lie elsewhere.
Cagnacci and Volpe looked at data for the years l995-98. The parallels between the incidence of suicide and abortion (which peak in May) were uncanny. In the abstract which appears on the Human Reproduction website, the authors conclude
"The present data show a seasonal rhythm in the rate of voluntary abortion, which is almost identical to that of female suicides. This link suggests common provocative mechanisms and may indicate common preventative measures."
Please dont jump to the conclusion that I consider myself some kind of expert on suicide in general or among women, in particular. But I do think that if we peer closer, we may see some interesting parallels at work.
To begin with, in almost all cases, those perched on the suicidal precipice are clinically depressed. Whats more, all the research tells us that the reason most people consider taking their life is not pain and suffering.
Instead the explanation seems to be an all-pervasive sense of hopelessness, a feeling that there is "no way out." Significantly, people pondering suicide often voice a fear of being a "burden" to others. Alas, sometimes family and physician inadvertently drive the patient to that conclusion.
Likewise with a woman considering an abortion. At the same time she is going through an enormous physiological change, frequently she has found herself abandoned. In most situations shes been counselled/cajoled/coerced into a corner.
Her conclusion? Crisis pregnancy counsellors have told me many times that the woman sees absolutely no other way out. Not infrequently, she does not see the baby per se as a "burden" but has come to the conclusion that it is almost selfish to continue the pregnancy!
Sometimes explicitly but more often subconsciously, the pregnant woman comes to a tragically incorrect conclusion. She asks herself, "What else but my own selfishness can explain why my family, friends, and support system are telling me bluntly Get an abortion!?"
In both instancessuicide and a crisis pregnancythe individual often feels utterly abandoned, completely without resources, and persuaded that continuing life (in one case her own life, in the other case her babys life) is to put an unacceptable burden on others.
Keep that thought in mind as you read this summary from the New Scientist:
"If depression and abortion are indeed linked, Cagnacci and Volpe say that the measures that help reduce depression, such as support from friends and family, might also apply to voluntary abortion."
This article is from "Today's News & Views," a column from the National Right to Life Committee's Dave Andrusko. This article was distributed August 21, 2001. If you'd like to receive these articles by e-mail, check out their website www.nrlc.org and get on Dave's mailing list.
Dave Andrusko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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